Known as the jewel of Gujarat’s ecological resources GIR National Park was our destination for a family vacation. Thirteen of us decided to pack our bags and head towards GIR, one of the big sanctuaries with the major big-cat concentrations in India. We were traveling from Chennai and so chose to break our flight journey at Mumbai and catch up with our friends and relatives before resuming our journey the next day by train. The train journey from Mumbai to Rajkot was around 14 hours. We found the jeep sent by Club Mahindra Resort waiting for us at the station and thus our journey into the world of jungle begun
On our way to the resort we found exclusive factories of ‘bandhani’ – an art of dyeing and printing fabric and hence the ladies in our group got their first opportunity for “retail therapy”!!We also got a chance to visit a factory along with a guide, who showed us how the bandhani printing was actually done. After a contented shopping experience we decided to move on, which was a big relief for all our better halves!! At the resort we had booked ourselves into tent houses and it was a different experience.
On first day of our stay we decided to go for a camel ride arranged by the resort. The camel jockey took all of us on a cart to a village nearby and showed us few temples and a gigantic cave from where one could feel and hear the volcanic eruptions happening beneath. We clicked a few pictures out there and headed back to our resort. On the way back the camel jockey entertained all of us by singing some of the traditional Gujarati songs. Overall it was a very good experience and I definitely recommend it.
We booked jeeps for the next day for morning safari which costed us around 7,500 INR per jeep. Thrilled and excited, we all got in to the jeep hoping to catch sight of all the animal life that existed in the jungle!!If wishes were horses!
We found umpteen numbers of peacocks, peahens, deers, wild boars and langoors (a variety of monkey). By midday we realized that tracking a lion/lioness was a challenge, as the land was arid and dry, which completely camouflaged the cat family.
The guide took us all towards Kamaleshwar lake which was supposedly inhabited by more than a thousand crocodiles and we were luckily able to spot few of them. We also spotted few species of birds like Black Paradise Flycatcher, Kingfisher, Hawks and few others.
On our way back we saw a peculiar looking tree which was metallic white in color. On being asked we were told that the tree was known as the “ghost tree”, also known as “Kullu” in India because of its branch structure and also because of the white color which glows at night!! The wood of the tree is soft and the lions generally sharpen their nails and sometimes mark their territories by scratching its bark. Another interesting thing I got to learn was that the gum of the tree is also used for glazing the medicine capsules outer cover!!
After the adventurous safari, we took a nap and decided to visit DIU Island which was around 130 kms from GIR in the evening. At DIU we saw the Diu Fort which was built by the Portuguese way back in 1535.It was a huge fort, beautifully built, but sadly, not maintained by the government as it should be! We also went to Nagoa Beach which had various sports facilities available. The sea at the beach was completely safe for swimming, so few in our group took the plunge, while the rest of us enjoyed the serenity of the surroundings.
On the last day of our stay at GIR, we went for the open zoo safari wherein for a change we were caged inside a mini bus and the animals were roaming around freely. To our joy, we finally spotted a Lioness and her cubs roaming around! There was also a Lion basking himself in the afternoon sun while a few more were sleeping under the shade of a tree!! After yearning for a sighting of the cat family for 3 days, what a treat this was! We also spotted blue bulls, antelopes and wild boars.The forest authority charges 100 INR per person for this trip.
In the evening our resort organized for a bonfire along with a tribal dance performance, wherein locals from then nearby village came in and performed their traditional dances.We danced along with them and had a great time!
A few tips if you are planning to visit GIR – best time to visit would be around December-March, loose clothing albeit nothing so bright to distract the animals is preferred, a good sunscreen would be useful, taking official guides along with you while going for safari would be of great help, tipping them would be even better!!
This is a guest post by Pooja Shri, a marketing professional, who along with regular a job pursues her creative interests. When she is not busy working or making Tanjore paintings / murals, she indulges in cooking and traveling with her better half. She can be reached at poojaleo2[AT]gmail.com